After weeks of speculation we finally know who is running for election and there’s a mixture of incumbents, unknowns, convicted criminals, failed past candidates, wannabe comeback kids, and big names.
Like 2010 we will be doing a series of blog posts – ‘Fisking the Candidates’ – where we will take a look at each Ward and its candidates. I will also go out on a limb, listing my picks for each race, and any potential dark horse(s).
Thanks to retirements we will definitely have 4 new councillors elected (roughly a 30% turnover) to the 15 person (including mayor) council. Whether that figure increases will depend how successful challengers are at unseating incumbents.
History has shown that unseating incumbents is very difficult – in 2010 only the scandal plagued Rob Goulden and serial under-performer Hayley Wain lost their seats, while others like Stephanie Cook and Byran Pepperell came tantalizingly close to losing their seats.
So first up is the Northern Ward. No doubt you’ll have your own picks and observations, so please leave them in the comments below.
Northern Ward (3 vacancies)
With Ngaire Best retiring there will be at least one new Northern Ward councillor in October. The Wellingtonian has a good piece looking at the contest for the Ward.
Justin Lester has kept his head down and amassed a respectable list of first term achievements within his ward while still managing to run his successful chain of salad bars.
He came out of nowhere in 2010 and topped the Northern Ward thanks in part to his handsome face being plastered on hoardings everywhere and extensive phone canvassing. He should be able do that again and will probably be rewarded with an increase in his vote.
With Best’s retirement I fear Helene Ritchie will sneak back in and try and make it to 4 decades on council. To her credit she has done good work around the Town Belt this term, but not much else in many years, and like Ian McKinnon, she should have called it quits. She still doesn’t live in her ward.
Sparrow is probably the strongest challenger on paper, and is the current chair of the (award winning) Tawa Community Board. His seven years as chair gives him a huge advantage, a tangible track record of results for his community and his name recognition will come in handy.
But against strong and appealing first time candidates like Gilberd and Toner his long record of service could undermine his candidacy if voters’ desire for fresh blood is strong enough. Time will tell whether his advantages carry any weight out of Tawa and how effective his campaign is.
He’s the youngest (realistic) candidate running in the Ward and has a respectable background and career. Like Ritchie, he doesn’t live in the Ward, but has a number of historical and family connections.
Running as an independent supported by a number of National Party figures could help him tap into and win over the more Tory areas of the Ward, complementing votes from those wanting a fresh and energetic new councillor. Nevertheless, to date he’s shown a commitment to working with anyone and recently participated in the get together of council contenders, has been releasing policy and has been actively campaigning with very good hoardings going up.
Originally campaigning in the Southern Ward, his shock (and somewhat opportunistic) move to contest Northern just before nominations closed will make his quest to clear out dead wood (Ritchie) easier, but he will face stiff competition from Sparrow and Gilberd.
Gilberd as a very solid and impressive background that would serve him well as a councillor. It will also probably appeal a lot to the residents of the North if he actively campaigns in the way Lester did in 2010. In saying that his heavy focus on science could go over a lot voters heads and turn his biggest strength into a weakness.
However he’s clearly a smart man and the fact he had a half decent website ready and live before nominations closed indicated he’s serious. His track record of involvement with a number of community and environmental groups will also bolster his candidacy.
Like every other Libertarianz candidate in New Zealand electoral history he stands no chance. He didn’t even respond to questions put to all Northern Ward candidates in the Wellingtonian. He does have the best libertarian name ever.
My ideal result would see Helene Ritchie suffer the same fate as Wain in 2010 allowing 2 of the 3 strong contenders (Toner, Gilberd and Sparrow) to join Lester around the council table. However right now my head says:
- Picks – Justin Lester, Helene Ritchie, Malcolm Sparrow
- Dark Horses – Peter Gilberd, Jacob Toner